Training of Elementary School Teachers Prior to 1900

Training of Elementary School Teachers Prior to 1900


Teacher training –up to the 1960s

Training of elementary school teachers prior to 1900

Early training colleges

The first training colleges for teachers were set up in the first half of the 19th century. They were aimed at teachers for elementary schools. By 1850 there were over 30; all but 5 of which were associated with the Church of England. (Of the 5, 2 were set up by Congregationalists and 3 by the non-denominational British Society; soon after 1850 a Wesleyan and a Roman Catholic one were also set up). Religious controversy dogged much of the early training as it also did educational provision in general across the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Many of those who established the colleges saw the new teachers as akin to Christian missionaries, bringing enlightenment to the uneducated masses. Almost all the early colleges were residential and small (with a maximum of 100 students) and conditions , especially for women, were poor. And most courses were relatively short – almost half of them were a year or less. History was one of a large range of subjects studied.

Pupil-teaching scheme

This was originally started by Dr J Phillips Kay (Later ‘Kay-Shuttleworth) who set up a pupil-teaching scheme in a large Poor Law school in Norwood.

In 1846 a national pupil-teacher scheme was launched for carefully selected Elementary school pupils, aged 13 or more, who fulfilled certain scholastic, moral and physical conditions. They would be apprenticed to selected head teachers for 5 years. They would teach throughout the school day and be taught by the head teacher before or after school hours for at least one and a half hours per day 5 days a week. They would be examined annually by HMI. They would be paid (£10 pa for boys duringthe first year, with girls receiving about two thirds of this), and head teachers would be paid for supervising and teaching them (£5 for one pupil-teacher, £9 for 2 etc),dependent on the HMI examination being satisfactory. A head teacher could have one pupil teacher for every 25 pupils on the school roll.

On completion of their apprenticeship the pupil-teacher would receive a certificate which would enable him or her to sit the examination for the ‘Queens’s Scholarship’ which would qualify the holder for a place in a training college with a maintenance grant of £25 for men, £20 for women. If they could not afford to delay working, or did not wish to, they could take up a position in a grant-aided elementary school as an ‘Uncertificated Teacher’. Training college students who successfully completed 1,2, or 3 years of training would be awarded 1st class, 2nd class or 3rd class [NB latter the highest] Teacher’s Certificate which would entitle them to annual supplements to their salary.

Developments in second half of the 19th century

Economic depression and cut-backs and lack of status for the profession meant that training college standards were often seen as mediocre and inadequate. A number of men’s training colleges closed during this period. Women’s were less affected as their colleges were cheaper to run (their conditions were very basic), they had few other occupations to choose from, and women teachers were in demand as their salaries were lower than men’s.

Pupil-teachers’ conditions declined and their numbers dropped until the stimulus of the 1870 Elementary Education Act. The decade after 1870 saw a near trebling (from 12,467 to 31,422) in the number of Certificated teachers (helped by an easing of the system of passing the Certificate); a more than doubling (14,612 to 32,128) of pupil-teachers; and a large proportionate growth in the number of ‘Assistant’ or Uncertificated teachers (former pupil-teachers who did not have a Certificate) from 1,262 to 7,652.

Within a few years the number of Uncertificated teachers was beginning to exceed the number of Certificated ones in many areas, partly because of the demand for teachers, but mainly because many small School Boards and Voluntary School managers wanted the cheapest teachers they could get. Concern grew about the standard of pupil-teachers and former pupil-teachers, and two of the larger School Boards, London and Liverpool, began to gather them into external classes for their education. This practice spread rapidly and by the 1890s most pupil-teachers were being educated in Pupil-Teacher Centres. London and Liverpool also improved the conditions for their pupil-teachers –raising their age of entry, reducing their teaching hours etc. The Committee of Council (predecessor to the Board of Education) was reluctantly forced to follow suit and in 1878 raised the official age of entry for pupil-teachers to 14, although not,as London had already done, to 15 until 1900.

The Cross Commission on Elementary Education, publishing its report in 1888, considered the issues of pupil-teaching and elementary school teacher training. Its Majority Report was broadly favourable to pupil teaching although the Minority Report felt it needed massive changes and a Departmental Committee was subsequently set up, which in 1896 proposed reform not abolition. As far as training colleges were concerned, the Cross Commission made the influential recommendation that day training colleges be set up by universities and university colleges. The Government accepted this proposal and six were opened in 1890, and four more the following year. By 1900 there were 16 with 1,150 students. This was an important development as it increased the supply of trained teachers for elementary schools, ended the isolation of training colleges and the near-monopoly of teacher training by religious denominations, gave the study of education academic status as the students could study for a degree at the same time as their teacher training, although this was complicated and made the workload enormous. It also raised the prestige of elementary school teaching as a profession. The day colleges were not completely restricted to students living at home – they could live in hostels and halls of residence like other university students, but they did not have to live in the restrictive atmosphere of the isolated denominational training college.

Training of Secondary school teachers prior to 1900

There was a vast chasm in prestige and educational experience between elementary and secondary school teachers during the nineteenth century and beyond. The former were usually of working class origin and often seen (somewhat snobbishly) as struggling to move out of their class on the basis of limited academic and social aptitude and training. Secondary school teachers were, by the nature of their job, teaching in either endowed grammar schools or public schools. They would usually have a degree in their subject (with the exception sometimes of women teachers in small private girls’ schools in the earlier years of the century) and they would be expected to be of a class reasonably close to that of their middle or upper class pupils.

Throughout most of the nineteenth century there was very little training for teachers in secondary schools; it was presumed that a degree in their chosen subject would suffice. Obviously as there were relatively so few secondary schools a large supply of teachers for them was not necessary. Towards the end of the century, as secondary schools for girls were established, there was a move to set up training colleges for women teachers; Miss Buss and Miss Beale were among those who initiated these. Gradually universities introduced post-graduate diplomas in Education and some of the day training colleges opened secondary training departments.

Teacher training post 1900

Beginning of the end for pupil-teachers

In his history of teacher training in England and Wales HC Dent saw Robert Morant as a crucial figure in the reform of teacher training. He said of Morant:

his greatest achievement will no doubt always be reckoned his swift build-up of a statutory system of secondary education; but the changes he made in the education and training of teachers were of fundamental importance; and it is essential to realise how closely linked the two reforms were. One of Morant’s main reasons for developing secondary education was to secure better teachers for Public Elementary schools.[1]

The experience from the nineteenth century was that to get better teachers the first necessity was to improve their general education. In 1900 nearly a quarter of the teaching force were pupil-teachers and they were by far the largest source of recruitment to elementary schools. If teaching standards were to improve, the training and education of pupil-teachers must improve first.

Starting in 1900, Morant began to tighten up the regulations for pupil-teachers; the first change upped the minimum age to 15 except where HMI authorised an earlier age (usually in rural areas). To be accepted, they must be approved by an HMI, pass a medical exam and pass an examination set by the Board of Education in Reading and Recitation, English, History, Geography, Arithmetic, Algebra, Euclid (boys) or Needlework (girls), and Teaching. Pupil-teachers were not allowed to teach more than five hrs a day or 20 per week althoughin some areas (eg London) they did less, in others much more. They were examined annually by HMI. When their term of service was completed they could sit the Queen’s (King’s from 1901) Scholarship exam. A 1st or 2nd class pass in this qualified the holder toenter training college although it didn’t guarantee it as applicants were far more numerous than places – in 1900barely 44.5% of eligible pupil-teacherswere accepted.

In 1903 Morant issued further regulations. From 1 August 1904 new pupil-teachers must be at least 16. From 1 Aug 1905 their hours of teaching were cut again and all must receive ‘approved courses of instruction’ amounting to at least 30 hours per year, given where possible in a fully-equipped and staffed Pupil-Teacher Centre approved by the Board of Education. Wherever possible, intending pupil-teachers should spend 3-4 years in a Secondary School. There was a mixed reaction to all this – some enthusiasm but concern for the schools that were very reliant on pupil-teacher labour.

In 1906 King's Scholarships were abolished. From 1907 there was a ‘Preliminary Examination for the Elementary School Teachers’ Certificate’ which was in two parts – Part I had to be passed, and only those who passed it could take Part II. All of Part I was compulsory, in Part II, English, History and Geography were compulsory and then candidates would sit 3 or more options from 3 groups – Elementary Maths, Elementary Science and Foreign Languages.

In April 1907 Morant went much further in dismantling the existing system when heissued Regulations ‘for the Preliminary Education of Elementary School Teachers’. This introduced an alternative to the traditional method of Pupil-Teacher training. From Aug 1907 selected pupils at Secondary Schools could be awarded ‘Bursaries’ – grants to enable them to stay an additional year at school between 16 and 18. On completing this year they could either enter training college straight away, or could serve in schools as ‘Student Teachers’ for up to one year and then enter college.

From Aug 1909 Board of Education would only recognise applicants who had been pupils at recognised Secondary schools for at least the 3 previous years and would only pay a grant to Bursars who passed (either during their Bursary year or within one year after) one of the exams qualifying them for entry to training college. Bursars could be accepted at training college at 17, a year earlier than pupil-teachers. This measure was partly in reaction to the growing criticism of the pupil-teacher system. LEAS liked the Bursar system although teachers were often much more negative, believing that it would lead to falling standards. There was also criticism that it was unfair to working class children whose families could not wait for them to start earning until they were 20 or 21. However the new system spelt the beginning of the end of the pupil-teacher system – in 1906-07 the number of newly recognised pupil-teachers was 11,018 whereas by 1913-14 it was only 1,691 (the number supplemented by only 3,012 new bursars). Dent says that although the pupil-teacher system lingered on to the outbreak of WW2 “it was pretty well extinct by the outbreak of the First”.[2]

As seen in the previous section, the status of elementary school teachers was beginning to rise, partly as the profession became more attractive to lower middle class women and even middle class women (from 1870 onwards women began to outnumber men as elementary school teachers[3]). Upper class women were unlikely to teach in elementary schools; Eglantyne Jebb, founder of ‘Save the Children’ was one of the few who attempted it, and she only lasted a few months.The establishment of the day training colleges towards the end of the nineteenth century mentioned abovemeant that middle class women could train while continuing to live at home, and as the physical conditions of elementary schools improved, middle class parents were more likely to find teaching in them an acceptable profession for their daughters. The decline of the pupil-teacher experience as the main route into elementary school teaching also opened up the profession to girls from social classes who would not favour their children starting work so early in life. Indeed once the main route into elementary teaching was via the training college the profession was inevitably going to be mainly recruited from a higher class level than unskilled working class because from 1900-1925 “the wages of a skilled workman were roughly the minimum which would allow a family to send a daughter to training college” Even for these families, Frances Widdowson points out, “the strain on the family budget was continuous until the girl left college at 20”.[4]In her interviews with retired teachers who trained during this period,Widdowson also points out that a number of them were of a different social class from the men who trained with them at training college. She quotes one lady saying that the men at Goldsmiths College were “very uneducated – uncivilised – put it that way…I wouldn’t mix with them out of college – not that lot”. [5]

Other developments prior to the First World War

From 1904 the Board of Education allowed LEAs to get involved with providing teacher training. The London County Council took this on[6], although other LEAs were less involved, and by 1914 there were only 20 LEA colleges. LEAs started to provide hostels for teaching training students, mainly for women, and the old distinction between residential and non-residential colleges gradually declined.

This period saw an attempt by the Board of Education to end the influence of the different religious denominations in training colleges. The Anglicans and Catholics were utterly opposed, the Non-Conformists supportive. The result was a kind of compromise.

Secondary School Teacher Training

From 1908 onwards the Board of Education issued Regulations for the Training of Teachers for Secondary Schools. There was no requirement or compulsion that a proportion of staff in a school (or any individual teachers) must be trained but the form of training that would be recognised was now laid down: this would be via a UTD (University Training Department), a Training College or a Teacher Training Department or a Secondary school. This training would be restricted to graduates and ‘graduate-equivalents’. It must last one academic year, consist solely of professional training, and include 1) a special study of at least one subject in the Secondary School curriculum and 2) at least 60 days of school practice, of which two thirds or more must be in a Secondary school approved for the purpose by the Board. The training was not widely taken up – men were very unwilling to train, and various Board stipulations put colleges off. The number of Secondary school teachers trained up to 1914 averaged under 200 a year, of whom c 160 were women. [7] In 1912-13 only 216 teachers (178 women and 38 men) were trained for secondary school teaching in England and Wales

During the 1WW many male teachers and students joined up,and various schemes (short training courses etc)to replace them were set up to encourage women into teaching. Despite this, HC Dent sees the teaching shortages in schools during the second half of the First World War getting much more pronounced.

Teacher training during the interwar years

The situation after the First World War

There was a wave of enthusiasm for teaching and education after the War. The ‘Burnham’ national salary scales for teachers removed the worst anomalies in their pay and large numbers of men applied for teacher training in the aftermath of the War. However the economic crisis of the early 1920s brought the enthusiasm to an end; training colleges and LEAs faced financial problems as the cuts came into force following the Geddes Committee Report in Feb 1922.

There was also growing discussion about the nature of teacher training. How academic should it be? How long? What qualifications were necessary etc? . In March 1923 a Departmental Committee was appointed under Viscount Burnham to review arrangements for the training of teachers in elementary schools (it did not consider secondary school teacher training). The Committee made 69 recommendations although there was some dissent – 4 of the 18 members didn’t sign it.